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Clywedog Valley
Historic Landscape
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Clywedog Valley: Manledd
Trefeglwys, Llanidloes Without and Llanidloes communities, Powys
(HLCA 1195)


Valley bottoms, lower hills and steep hill edge around the lower Clywedog and upper Cerist and their tributaries; dispersed farms, some of medieval and early post-medieval origin, associated with irregular field patterns; extensive 19th-century enclosure of former common land in intervening areas represented by more regular field patterns and associated with former encroachments and with new farms; widespread largely 19th to early 20th century mining remains along the Van lode; sites of former 19th and early 20th-century woollen mills along the bank of the Clywedog.

Some of the central part of the area fell within the lands of Deupiu (identified as Penyclun), together with land called Hirard (identified as Hiriaeth) part of which was granted to the Cistercian abbey of Strata Marcella near Welshpool by Gwenwynwyn, prince of southern Powys, in the early years of the 13th century, and probably held by the abbey until its dissolution in about the middle of the 16th century, when it formed part of the manor of Talerddug. The area fell within the manorial townships of Brithdir, Manledd, and Glanhafren Iscoed in the 19th-century Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Llanidloes and the manorial township of Dolgwden in the Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Trefeglwys.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Valley bottoms, lower hills and steep hill edge of the lower Clywedog and its tributary the Nant Gwestyn draining to the south-east and the Cerist and its tributary the Nant Gwden draining to the north-east, generally between a height of 150-300 metres above sea level. The hillslopes are predominantly covered with well-drained fine loamy or fine silty soils overlying rock, which historically has been best suited to stock rearing and woodland. The valleys of the lower Clywedog, Gwestyn, Cerist and lower Gwden are covered with slowly permeable and seasonally waterlogged fine silty and clayey soils derived from mudstone and shales drift deposits, which historically has been best suited to stock rearing and dairying on permanent grassland and cereals in some better-drained areas. Relict areas of semi-natural broadleaved woodland and scrub survive on some of the steeper hill slopes and valley sides of the Gwden, the upper Cerist, and bordering the lower Clywedog just to the west of Llanidloes and bordering the Severn valley north of Llanidloes. Some of the conifer and mixed woodland on the steep slopes of the Clywedog valley to the west of Llanidloes appears to represent ancient replanted woodland, replanted in the early 19th century following parliamentary enclosure of parts of this area.

Placenames provide some evidence of settlement and land use history in the character area. The name Cae-garw contains the elements cae (‘field’) and either carw (‘deer, stag’) or garw (‘rough’), whilst other names include elements associated with stock rearing: Pwll-yr-ebol contains the elements pwll (‘hollow’) and ebol (‘colt’), and Bron-y-geifr appears to contain the element geifr (‘flock of goats’). Bidffald (formerly Bitfal) is derived from the English pinfold, an animal pound. Grazing land is indicated by the elements dol (‘meadow’) in Dolgwden (first recorded in the 1570s) and the element gwaun (‘mountain pasture’) in Ty’n-y-waen. The farm Lluest-wen, north of Y Fan contains the element lluest (‘hut, cottage, shieling’) suggesting an origin as a small and possibly temporary habitation. Numerous placenames in the area, such as Coed Cefnpennarth, Coed Cwmeryr, Coed y Glyn, Cringoed, and Coed Glangwden include the element coed (‘wood’) most of which refer to areas of existing or replanted ancient woodland though others, such as Cefngoleugoed, probably refer to former areas of ancient woodland that have now disappeared.

Bronze Age activity is represented by a bronze axe found at Hiriaeth. Later prehistoric settlement and land use in the area is indicated by the defended earthwork enclosures at Dolgwden and Pen-y-castell on low hills north of Y Fan which enclose areas of up to 0.3 and 1 hectare respectively.

The character area includes a variety of different fieldscapes representing a number of distinct patterns of land use and enclosure. Characteristic large and small irregular fields, particularly on the more lower-lying and less steeply sloping ground, as in the valleys of the Clywedog and upper Cerist, often clustered around farmsteads of potentially medieval to early post-medieval origin, probably represent a gradual process of woodland clearance and enclosure from at least early medieval or medieval times. Cultivation in the area during the Middle Ages is to be associated with the evidence for a corn watermill operated by a leat from the river Cerist at Melin-y-wern at Y Fan, first recorded in the 1290s. A corn mill was still in operation here in the 1670s which had been converted to a fulling mill in the 1840s but closed by the 1880s probably due to ore processing operations in the same area.

About a quarter of the area, however, particularly of the higher and steeper ground and woodland, including the ridge running north from Llanidloes to Gellilefrith, Garth Hill southwards to Cringoed in the Clywedog valley, and hillslopes north of Y Fan and around the upper valley of the Nant Gwden, survived as unenclosed common grazing land until subject to parliamentary enclosure in the earlier 19th century which probably engulfed a number of earlier encroachments. This is reflected by the distinctive patterns of large and small straight-sided fields in the areas of more irregular fields representing an earlier process of more piecemeal enclosure. Some unenclosed land in the western part of the area, between Bryntail and Penyclun, which formed part of the manor of Talerddig were subject of private enclosure, being excluded from parliamentary enclosure. The pattern of straight-sided field in the Cerist valley appears to represent a process of landscape reorganisation following the canalization of the river when the Van Railway was built in 1871.

The character area includes an important series of archaeological remains of extraction and processing of metal ores. Amongst the earliest evidence is an ancient iron bloomery site possibly of medieval date near the Nant Gwden stream to the south of Cwmbernant Farm, probably based on local deposits of sedimentary bog iron which were widely exploited in upland areas of Britain for the production of iron. An iron mine is recorded in operation in the 1290s in the commote of Arwystli Uwchcoed, though its location is unknown.

Later metal-mining, particularly of the second half of the 19th century, involved the production of lead as well as quantities of copper, zinc and barytes. The industry was based on the exploitation of a rich mineral vein striking across the area for a distance of 6 kilometres regardless of topography, from Aberdaunant Mine in the valley of the Nant Gwestyn in the south-west, via Bryntail Mine in the Clywedog valley, to Glyn Mine and Penyclun Mine, Van Mine in the Cerist valley, and East Van Mine (Cwmdylluan Mine) in the valley of the Nant Gwden and its tributaries in the north-east. Remains of the former mining industry lie widely scattered over about 180 hectares of what is now an essentially agricultural landscape.

The Aberdaunant Mine, which produced lead and copper ores, was worked from the late 18th century up until the late 1870s, in addition to some evidence of some early levels and trials of the later prehistoric, Roman or medieval periods. Visible workings, which are mostly of the later 19th century including several adits and an engine shaft, ore slide, wheel pit, leat, and the remains of an engine house and mine office building. Power was provided by a waterwheel supplied with water carried by a leat, rock-cut in places, from the Nant Gwestyn which operated rock crushers, jiggers and buddles though little visible trace of these survive.

Bryntail Mine, a Guardianship Monument in the care of Cadw, was worked between the late 18th century up to the late 1860s, producing lead ore and barytes. Visible workings are largely of 19th century date and include 3 main shafts and a deep adit, well-preserved remains of an earthwork incline, tramway track beds, a leat which once carried water drawn from the Clywedog further upstream, substantial remains of buildings including structures which housed pumping and winding machinery, a barytes mill, mine office, smithy and store building, a circular explosives magazine, together with wheelpits for winding and crushing machinery, ore bins, roasting ovens and precipitation tanks, jigger placements, a washing and picking floor area, buddles, slime pits.

The Glyn Mine, between the Bryntail and Penyclun mines, active between 1870 and the 1930s, produced lead ore and barytes, which was mostly processed at Bryntail. Visible remains include two shafts, opencuts and trial shafts, slight traces of a former engine house, and a small reservoir.

The Penyclun Mine lies within an enclosed lowland landscape on an east-facing slope, below the ramparts of Penyclun hillfort produced lead ore between the 1860s and the 1930s and was for a time the most productive mine in Montgomeryshire. Much of the former mining landscape at Penyclun, particularly the ore processing areas, have been largely obscured by a land reclamation scheme, but the site is of particular interest for the rare survival of a small Cornish engine house and chimney. Its setting, which includes the main shaft, connecting adit and other structures including two reservoirs, covers an area of about 1.5 hectares.

The extensive mining remains at Van were actively worked for the production of lead and zinc ores between 1850 and 1920. Visible and buried remains include 5 shafts, 3 adits and levels, and some early trials, inclines to carry ores to the processing areas and coal to an engine house, a waterwheel pit survive which was initially used for pumping and subsequently to drive a crusher, the remains of engine houses used for pumping, winding and for operating processing machinery including crusher houses, stamps, jiggers, and buddles, and a halvans mill built in the 1870s for reprocessing the spoil tips, slime pits, and a gas producer erected in 1916. Water for driving machinery and other processes was carried by a leat from the Cerist and the natural valley-bottom lake at Llyn y Fan and from the reservoir created towards the head of the valley about a kilometre to the west, beyond Manledd-uchaf. Other structures included a sawmill, coalhouses, carpenters shop, mine office and a loading bay or surge bin to hold ore trammed out of the main adit. Parts of the works were reused as a paintworks in the 1930s. The Van Railway, a dismantled standard-gauge railway connection to Caersws, was created in 1871 as a branch of the Cambrian Railway for hauling processed ore as well as passengers. Much of the course of this line remains visible running along the road past Van Terrace and by field boundaries alongside the river Cerist that was canalized and straightened at this period. Former stations on the line existed within the character area near Penisafmanledd and Garth and Van Station near Y Fan.

The East Van (Cwmdylluan) Mine was worked for lead ore in the valley of the Nant Gwyden and its tributaries to the north-east of Y Fan in the period between 1870 and 1882. Visible workings include 3 shafts as well as a long adit and 4 levels. The foundations of an engine and boiler house and possible coal store built in the early 1870s, survive together with a brick chimney to the east of Pwll-yr-ebol farm, together with a brick-built mine stables and possibly smithy, now used for agricultural purposes. There are no surviving remains of processing, which was probably undertaken at the Van Mine.

The woollen industry was active in the lower Clywedog valley to the west of Llanidloes during the later 18th and 19th centuries, exploiting the power of the river. The former Glynne Flannel Factory, near Glynne Cottages, was fed by mill race beginning about half a kilometre upstream. The former Cribynau Flannel Factory, near Cribynau Mill Cottage, was likewise fed by leat. A terraced tentering field on steep south-facing hillslope next to the factory is shown on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of the 1880s which is also shown in contemporary photographs.

The woodland area at Allt Goch, north of Llanidloes, owned by the town council, has been developed as an amenity area.

Present-day buildings and settlement patterns within the historic landscape area derive from a complex series of influences. An underlying pattern of widely dispersed farms and cottages associated with irregular and more anciently enclosed fields probably originated during the medieval and later medieval periods, of which at least some, such as Hiriaeth, were in existence by at least the early 13th century. There are no surviving medieval or late medieval buildings within the character area but a number of former or surviving later medieval to early post-medieval buildings indicate earlier traditions of timber-framing characterised in the area during the Middle Ages, including those recorded at Glangwden, Pant yr Ongle and Cwmeryr Bach and Hiriaeth, of which Hiriaeth, dated to 1722, is a relatively late example.

The use of timber appears to have gradually been replaced by stone, probably during the 17th and 18th centuries, perhaps following a period of transition in which both materials were used in combination. Stone buildings of this period are built of rough rubble, sometimes, particularly in the case of domestic buildings, rendered and/or limewashed. Farms seem to have been relatively small (2-3 unit houses), sometimes planned as a single range or as a simple cluster, most of the accommodation in older farm buildings being largely for cattle, such as the farm at Cwmdylluan, just north-east of Y Fan, which has a probably 17th-century farmhouse with early farm buildings including a barn and cow-house. Before the 19th century most of the buildings within the character area fell firmly within vernacular building traditions, perhaps the only exception being the farmhouse at Glyn Clywedog, which was a major Renaissance building, most probably built as the lodge to a mansion of the Glynne family that was probably never built.

Some encroachments probably began to appear on the swathes of unenclosed commons from at least the 17th and 18th centuries onwards and although it is now difficult to point to certain surviving examples of dwellings of this kind, this was almost certainly the origin of the former cottage Potatoe Hall on the hills north of Llanidloes which has been demolished in recent years. This and other similar encroachment cottages may originally have been built turf and clay, as suggested in the case of the former roadside dwelling known as Clod Hall near Bidffald, mentioned in Hamer’s history of Llanidloes.

The enclosure of common land opened up the opportunity for improvements to existing farms and the creation of new ‘improved’ farms by a number of the estates as a consequence of enclosure. The farm with a brick-built farmhouse and courtyard like arrangement of farm buildings at Gellilefrith was newly erected within an area of former unenclosed common on the hills north of Llanidloes between the enactment of enclosure act in 1826 and the tithe survey of 1846. Garth farmhouse and farm buildings of 1870, just south of Y Fan, have a clear estate character, and again lay on land enclosed, during the early 19th century. The farm was the property of Earl Vane, lessor of the Van lead-mines, and provides an interesting illustration of the relationship of industry and agriculture in the area in the later 19th century. A number of other smaller farms in the Y Fan area such as Penisafmanledd, again on the edge of former common land, suggest investment in agriculture during this period. Other new settlements on the edge of former unenclosed commons are suggested by houses in existence by the 19th century whose name includes the element ‘new’, as for example at New House and Ty-newydd (‘New House’).

During the earlier phases of the metal mining industry within the character area the workforce was either drawn from the surrounding farms and villages or travelled in each day from Llanidloes. It was only during the later phases of the industry from the 1870s and 1880s that purpose-built housing was provided by the mining company, but still even so only for a relatively small proportion of workers. Van Terrace is a significant surviving example of miners cottages, consisting of a single row of about 18 simple two-storey dwellings built alongside the processing works and railway although some of the formality and unity of the row has been lost by the indiscriminate painting and rendering of the original brickwork. Other surviving buildings which formed part of this dispersed mining settlement include houses provided for the mine manager and engineers and two nonconformist chapels of the Calvinistic Methodist and Wesleyan Methodist denominations, the latter originally provided with a library. The mine owners did not permit the opening of an inn at the settlement.


Historic Environment Record; Cadw Listed Building descriptions; modern Ordnance Survey 1:10,000, 1:25,000 mapping and 1st edn Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 mapping; Barton 1997; Bick 1977; Bick 1990; Burt, Waite and Burnley 1990; Carr 1992; Cozens 1953; Cozens, Kidner and Poole 2004; Foster-Smith 1978; Grimes 1951; Hamer 1872; Jenkins 1989; Jones 1922; Jones 1954; Jones and Moreton 1977; Jones, Walters and Frost 2004; Morgan 2001; Thomas 1955-56; Richards 1969; RCAHM 1911; Smith 1975; Soil Survey of England and Wales; Sothern and Drewett 1991; Spurgeon 1972; Thomas 1997; Walters 1994; Williams 1990; Williams and Bick 1992

For further information please contact the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust at this address, or link to the Countryside Council for Wales' web site at

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